The Innovation Workshop: Art or Science ?

The start of the New Year seems to have heralded the start of workshop season here at Freestyle. These have ranged from creative ideation sessions, practical skills training, through to kick off sessions for cross functional teams tasked with delivering the dreaded ‘new thinking’ into the business. Although we love a good Haribo fuelled post-it-note session as much as the next person, we thought it might be useful to share our thoughts on the practicalities of running a great session.

1. Planning, planning and then more planning

It cannot be underestimated the amount of planning that goes into delivering a great workshop. We literally plan out the day in 10 minute sections and work out what materials are needed and what the desired outcomes are for each session. Although it’s counter intuitive, the very fact that we do this allows us to be very flexible around the timings on the day. A great example of this happened when we had a fire alarm in the middle of a workshop and had to vacate the building. We knew exactly how much time had been missed and where we could make cuts and changes to get back on schedule. The fact that we have a detailed plan does not mean we will stick to it rigidly; we will often change our plans during the day but we are still clear on what needs to be achieved.

2. It takes two to tango

It’s difficult to facilitate a full day workshop by yourself – just don’t. As well as having someone to stick up your flip charts, answer questions about Wi-Fi codes and dietary requirements, you really need someone to monitor the room for you and suggest potential changes in direction if the session is not delivering against its objective. It can be useful to nominate someone in the room to take on a sponsor role. This way you can constantly check in with then on how the session is going and ask them to make choices about different directions. Don’t wait till the end to get feedback there is really nothing you can do about it then.

3. Location, Location Location..

This does seem a bit obvious but there are so many creative spaces available to hire and if you really want your teams to think differently then you need to move away from tired meeting rooms and aging conference suites. We have facilitated sessions in museums, art galleries, technology suites and TV studios. This doesn’t need to cost a huge amount; have a look below at a creative space one of our clients created from an old stock room. The team have ‘borrowed’ a coffee machine, freecycled a sofa and even made desks out of old pallets – we love running workshops here.

4. Workshop Stuff…

Not all post-it-notes are created equal and you really don’t want to spend the session chasing post-it-note confetti so have a practise beforehand. Also, a good idea is to check out that you have a good mixture of white board, flip chart pens and Sharpies that actually work. (We prefer the oblong post-it-notes (127mm x 76mm) written on with a Sharpie not a biro for idea generation!). Although a tub of Haribos used to be the only fuel required at a workshop session, there is a definite moved towards fruit and healthy snacks. At a recent session we organised for a gourmet mobile coffee van to arrive mid-morning; this worked really well in providing a caffeine injection but also an opportunity to get outside in the fresh air.

So is running a great innovation workshop art or science? Maybe a little bit of both, this time we have discussed some of the practicalities and next time we will discuss the process for running an idea generation session.

So if you would like to know more about innovating better and fancy a chat about the practicalities of running an innovation session then please get in touch at

#Innovation #Workshop #Ideas


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